Poyet seeks kick-start from the cup
Gus Poyet has challenged his Sunderland players to launch a Barclays Premier League survival drive by dumping star-studded Chelsea out of the Capital One Cup.
The sides meet for the second time in less than a fortnight at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening with a semi-final berth at stake as they take a break from very different league challenges.
Chelsea will arrive on Wearside, where they claimed three points on December 4 with a narrow 4-3 victory, sitting in third place in the table and only two points behind leaders Arsenal.
By contrast, the Black Cats are marooned at the bottom, five points shy of safety and in danger of being cast adrift unless they can revive their fortunes sooner rather than later.
Poyet said: "If we want to get out of the relegation zone, we need to become winners, winning football games, and to become winners, we need to win the next one, so let's see if we can use it for that reason.
"It's important. It's a cup competition. We are losing a little bit of belief in England in the cups because of course, the Premier League or the Champions League means everything.
"It's a competition and you cannot start the season thinking, 'I won't care about this one, I will care a little bit about this one and only care properly about this one'.
"It's just about playing and becoming winners. A winner is somebody who wins most of the time, and that's what we are trying to achieve here."
On paper at least, few would give Sunderland much chance of booking a place in the last four no matter which 11 players Blues boss Jose Mourinho sends out.
However, Chelsea had to come from behind and withstand a late onslaught on their last visit, although Poyet acknowledges that will count for little this time around as he attempts to deny his former club a chance to add another trophy to their honours list.
He said: "To get there, we need to beat a very top team, so we need to be very good tomorrow. We need to be much better than two weeks ago."
Mourinho maintains every one of his Chelsea squad will have an important role to play over the hectic festive schedule.
The Blues closed in on Arsenal with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, but with one eye on the upcoming showdown at the Emirates Stadium on December 23, Mourinho is likely to rotate the players for the trip to Wearside.
Centre-half Gary Cahill was rested at the weekend as a precaution following a minor thigh problem, and could return to the defence alongside David Luiz as Mourinho would like to rest captain John Terry.
Branislav Ivanovic is suspended, so Cesar Azpilicueta will switch to his favoured right-back role, with Ashley Cole returning on the left.
"Now is an important period for all of the squad - everyone has a role to play and a contribution to give," Mourinho said.
"Every player will be important when we have so many games and competitions to play."
Mourinho continued: "Azpilicueta can go on the right, Ashley Cole on the left, with David (Luiz) as a central defender.
"If Cahill recovers, I will play him if he does not recover, then I will go again with John, but I would like to give John a rest for that match."
Blues midfielder Juan Mata is expecting another stern test against Poyet's men.
"We already won there a month ago and it was not easy," the Spaniard said on his Chelsea website blog.
"Despite their position in the Premiership table, Sunderland is a team with players that can change a game such as (Jozy) Altidore or (Adam) Johnson. Winning there for the second time is going to be tough again."